Third strong storm in week drenches N. Calif.

Associated Press
Traffic moves west along Interstate 80 west of Reno, Nev., as a heavy, wet storm hits Northern Nevada on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. A powerful storm delivered more snow and less rainfall Sunday to the Sierra than forecast, blunting the flooding danger on the Truckee River in California and Nevada, forecasters said. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The third powerful storm in a week drenched an already saturated Northern California, but concerns of serious flooding eased as the system moved through faster than expected.

The storm dropping as much as an inch of rain per hour Sunday in some areas, toppling trees and knocking out electrical service to tens of thousands of people, officials said.

Rivers across Northern California swelled from the deluge but did not flood as extensively as had been expected, officials said.

Forecasters had issued flood warnings for the Napa and Russian rivers, two rivers north of San Francisco with a history of flooding, as well as the Truckee River, near Lake Tahoe, but by Sunday afternoon had canceled the warning for the Russian River.

"It (the storm) moved through a lit bit faster than it was looking like it would, so it didn't plant on top of us and keeping raining," said Austin Cross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "The period of heavy rain didn't last as long."

In Napa, where officials had handed out more than 8,000 sandbags and about 150 tons of sand before the storm hit, officials breathed a sigh of relief Sunday afternoon after the heaviest rain moved out of the area and the city appeared to avoid any major damage from the storm.

"There were predictions of the river getting above flood stage, but that did not occur," Napa city spokesman Barry Martin said. "We've had some minor street flooding and some of the intersections were flooded."

Flood construction projects were credited with keeping the river within its banks through the city, while most of anticipated flooding, expected around 6 p.m. Sunday, was expected to hit a mostly agricultural area outside of the city, officials said.

In Truckee, 30 miles west of Reno, city officials were focusing on snow removal Sunday afternoon instead of flood control after the town received 4 to 5 inches of snow in the morning, said Assistant City Manager Alex Terrazas.

"We continue to keep an eye on the river, but things are certainly better than they could have been," he said. "We'll transition back to flood management if we need to."

Besides the speed in which the system moved through the area, weather officials were heartened by colder temperatures than expected in the mountains, meaning more snow and less rain fell.

In far Northern California, flood warnings remained in effect Sunday for the Eel, Navarro and Mad rivers.

Meanwhile, as Pacific Gas & Electric crews worked on restoring power, about 57,000 people from Santa Cruz to Eureka, including about 13,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area, remained without electricity Sunday afternoon as the powerful winds from the storm knocked down trees and sent broken tree limbs and branches across power lines, officials said.

"It really did broadside California," PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said of the storm.

About 2,000 PG&E crews were working Sunday to try to restore power, Molica said.

Wind gusts, recorded as high as 60 miles per hour in parts of the Bay area, were blamed for knocking over a big rig truck as it drove over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at around 5 a.m. Sunday.

Tow crews had to wait for the winds to subside later in the morning before they could remove the truck, officials said.

Also, train service on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was disrupted for about an hour Sunday morning because of an electrical outage blamed on the weather.

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Associated Press writer Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.

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